'The White Lotus'’s Simona Tabasco Wants to Party With Lucia

And so do we.

Simona Tabasco

Elena Maggiulli

When HBO Max’s The White Lotus arrived back in July 2021, no one knew exactly what to expect from Mike White’s satirical comedy-drama. But fast forward to the release of the series’s second installment only a year and some change later — with a massive following and more than a few Emmy awards under its belt — and expectations were all anyone could talk about. Namely, who, exactly, would be this season’s breakout star?

With another White Lotus vacation coming to a close with the sophomore season’s Sunday night finale (which promises multiple guest deaths while detailing the travels of beloved names like Aubrey Plaza, Jennifer Coolidge, and Meghann Fahy against a stunning Sicilian landscape), the answer is abundantly clear: it’s all about Simona Tabasco. 

When we first meet Tabasco’s Lucia (an empowered sex worker who sees her profession as “a means to an ends,” according to the actress) licking a sucker while eyeing up a fresh batch of arrivals on the Sicilian shoreline, it’s immediately obvious that she’s ready to have some fun. And while it didn’t take long for viewers — and an ever-growing list of White Lotus patrons — to fall for Lucia over the course of seven whirlwind episodes (or for the travelers, a week-long stay), the actress behind Lucia’s cunning antics, magnetic performance, and stunning (albeit, semi-stolen) wardrobe proved to be equally as charming.

Simona Tabasco

Elena Maggiulli

“I think that no matter how much you can study a character and go into a character dive to portray them in a certain way, you can't really go that much far away from who you are at the core, as a person, as an actor, as an individual,” Tabasco said of any similarities to Lucia. “Every character that I've played somehow has allowed me to explore maybe a part of myself that I don't really have access to often, or that I don't want to tap into too too much.”

As Tabsasco takes a break from filming I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone to log onto our  Zoom call with a “Ciao!” and a smile, she’s quick to get into the details of her character’s role in the story (with the help of her translator), open up about relationships made with cast mates, and share all about the moments on set she plans to carry with her forever. 

InStyle spoke to the The White Lotus star about her favorite scenes to film (spoiler: it involves partying), the character with the best wardrobe, and the true love of Lucia’s life. 

What was it like joining The White Lotus’s second season as Lucia?

I didn't know Lucia, the character, during the audition, because I couldn't read the script. Before I got the script, I didn’t know about the character being a sex worker. So, I had lots of thoughts on that and was wondering how that was going to play out. Then, I read it and I went through it, and I think there are so many aspects to her and things that go on; for example, Albie (Adam DiMarco), I think that's Lucia's love of her life, possibly. 

The arc that the character of Lucia goes through and how she starts off and how she ends and what she goes through in the middle, I think it's such a rich character. There's so many aspects to her, so many colors. It was wonderful to play her.

Are there any aspects of Lucia’s character that relate closely to your own?

I think that no matter how much you can study a character and go into a character dive to portray them in a certain way, you can't really go that much far away from who you are at the core, as a person, as an actor, as an individual. Every character that I've played has somehow  allowed me to explore maybe a part of myself that I don't really have access to often, or that I don't want to tap into too too much. 

I feel that every performance has been almost like a give back between Simona and the character that Simona's playing. In that sense, I could be a Lucia. Maybe not every day. I have to keep under wraps certain aspects of Lucia. But it was great to play her, because I could tap into all of that. I feel very close to her in many ways.

Which of those untapped characteristics were the most fun to portray?

One extremely fun thing to shoot on set was the scene where Mia (Beatrice Grannò) and Lucia have fun with Ethan (Will Sharpe) and Cameron (Theo James) when they're partying, because Mike (White) didn't give us a lot of direction. He told us what he kind of had as a vision, but then we didn't know what was going to happen between each take — we were very free to try and experiment. That's not something I do often. So, it was extremely fun to do it on set.

That scene in the episode has been obviously cut for editing purposes, but it was actually quite long to shoot. I think we did it over two days, because there's a part at the bar and then there is a part at the pool, so it took some time. It was also interesting because Mike told us, "Well, you got to end up in the pool," but how we were going to end in the pool was not outlined. We had a lot of fun between us four and trying to figure out how that was actually going to play out.

That sounds like a blast. How much of each scene did Mike leave up to the actors’ interpretation?

The great thing about this whole project, I think in that sense, is that Mike, as a writer, had a very clear vision of the story and how the characters were supposed to be. It's like he wrote the script giving extremely clear and extremely solid grounds for us to then build on that. 

For example, gestures or tone of voice, or how to carry a sentence; that wasn't written. We did have some improvisation in that sense, as well. But it was so freeing in that regard, because we could be open to interpreting how our characters would say what was written. That was the part that Mike left us very, very free to play with. I think it was a great balance between these two things. I don't think it would've worked otherwise.

Lucia and Mia have an incredible friendship in the show, but who do you think you’d be closer to in real life?

That's a really good question, and I don't know because I think that these two characters have opposing developments throughout the season. They start off as opposite, but then somewhere along the line, they kind of switch positions in a way as if they're the same character. I always thought of them as a little devil and a little angel sitting on the shoulders of someone giving them their inputs. Then at one point, they basically just switch shoulders. It feels like they're the same character in a way. I don't know. I may steal Mia's clothes and have a night out with Lucia.

Earlier, you mention that you had questions about Lucia being a sex worker when you first read the script. How much of a role did you play in the decision to portray this character as empowered as opposed to a victim?

The way that Mike wrote Lucia was very clear. He had this idea of Lucia being an empowered woman that has her goals and chooses this profession as a means to an end. The way it was built is the way I played it. I was very truthful to this vision of Mike and how he wanted Lucia to be as a character in the story.

At the beginning, it was a bit of a sniffing around, me and him. Do we agree? Do we not? Are we on the same page? And then it turned out to be so. I did build on that throughout the shooting, just what we were saying before about how she expresses how she is and how she brings out all her aspects, all of her colors. But the baseline of what Lucia is was what Mike had written on script. I was happy and I agreed, and we went from there.

Lucia has some amazing fashion moments in the show. Were there any specific looks you wished you would've stolen from the set?

Honestly, all of them. It was so much fun and I liked them all. I don't have any of them with me, but my favorite was the one I wore [during the party scene] with Cameron. The lilac paillette dress, the skin-toned one, that's my favorite from the show.

Simona Tabasco

Elena Maggiulli

Aside from Lucia, which character do you think has the best wardrobe?

I love the Haley (Lu Richardson) style, the Portia style. I love it. I think she respects her emotional sides, and I think she's the best. Also, Jennifer (Coolidge) has beautiful dresses.

Speaking of Jennifer, what was it like working on-location for months alongside such a star-studded cast?

It was great because the time we spent together on and off set between February and July, all of it — I'm not exaggerating when I say that — it's all filled with moments that I will remember and carry with me forever. Of course, it was crazy for me to have the opportunity to work with such incredible stars and artists that are of a gigantic caliber. It was amazing. 

The thing was that all the time we spent off-set, which we did because it gave us the opportunity to get to know each other, talk, discuss, built the character, but also other things like get to know each other better, was something that I wasn't expecting. I was very surprised that that would be happening, but it did. It did. Everybody was so welcoming and inviting that I felt great and pleasantly surprised. All of those moments will all be forever cherished by me.

Were there any specific activities you would do with the cast in your off-time?

I have so many moments, but there was one day we were just all together at Belmont Hotel, and we were just at the pool, and we were playing cards. They brought us spritzes, and it was just a day that was easy. We were just relaxing all together, chit-chatting, enjoying our time.

At its core, The White Lotus is a murder-mystery. When you first read the script, were you able to decipher who the killer and victims were before the big reveal? 

I don't remember exactly the name that popped in my head as I was reading through the script and thinking, "Oh, my god, that's going to be the killer and that's going to be the dead body." But I do remember that I kind of went through the idea that maybe it would have something to do with Lucia one way or another. And maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But just because of the way my character is, I thought she may play into it.

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